CRPE: “Unbundled” Education Needs Re-bundling, Too
February 8, 2019

Personalized Education Funding—the concept is simple: Rather than governments allocating funding to specific public schools, students themselves would receive funding based on their needs and circumstances, which they could direct toward educational needs such as basic school attendance, tutoring, therapy, or supplemental learning experiences, both inside and outside the traditional classroom.

In a new essay “Funding a Nimble System,” the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) describes how a system like this could work and how states could make progress toward personalized education funding through incremental changes.

Freeing up funds to support personalized education is necessary; but it can’t work if parents face a chaotic array of options. That means states and school district will need to design systems to help parents navigate diverse learning options, ensure students are able to assemble coherent educational programs, hold providers accountable, and track academic outcomes. This will require policies and infrastructure that don’t currently exist, and that existing education savings account programs (e.g. Florida’s) have not created. It also creates a demand  for boundary-pushing schools that help connect their students to learning experiences offered by colleges, museums, therapeutic providers, recreation centers, and other organizations outside their walls.

Currently, the closest efforts to create these systems, including programs known as education savings accounts, have their shortcomings. In practice, these programs have, to date, functioned more like conventional school vouchers, letting families choose among traditional schools but not encouraging much personalization or innovation. And they’ve struggled to gain political traction in states where Democrats hold power. However, states can take an approach that can allow for them to develop these systems over time and transition away from old funding regimes.

States could start by creating smaller education savings account programs that support afterschool, summer, and enrichment programs for low-income students. These programs can help families begin to harness the potential of “unbundled” education, and to learn about diverse options for their children. They can also support networks of “navigators” or “learner advocates” who can offer trained guidance to parents, and refine protocols for financial auditing and academic monitoring. Policymakers will need to ensure funding for diverse educational opportunities serves its intended purpose.

This essay is part of a new collection of essays from CRPE on how to rethink foundational aspects of the current education system with an eye toward preparing every student for the future. To learn more about personalized education funding, read the full essay here. 

Travis Pillow

Travis is a Senior Fellow for the Center on Reinventing Public Education.

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